Doric dialect, also called West Greek,  a dialect of Ancient Greek that in Mycenaean times was spoken by seminomadic Greeks living around the Pindus Mountains. After the Dorian migrations near the end of the 2nd millennium bc, Doric-speaking Greeks were found in the northwest of Greece as well as throughout the Peloponnese (except Arcadia) and the islands of the South Aegean (Crete, Thera, Rhodes, Cos). Outside the Aegean world, important Doric colonies were founded by Doric cities: Syracuse was established by Corinth (c. 734 bc), Tarentum by Sparta (c.700 bc), Cyrene by Thera (c. 630 bc). In Hellenistic times, several supraregional Doric standard dialects developed. The Doric Koine of the Peloponnese under the Achaean League was based on the dialect of Corinth and Sicyon, the Northwest Koine of the Aetolian League on that of Aetolia, the Sicilian Koine on that of Syracuse, and the South Italic Koine on that of Tarentum.

The artificial dialect of literary choral lyric is Doric interspersed with Ionic epic and some Lesbian poetry. Its first poet was Eumelus of Corinth (8th century bc). The type of Doric used by Alcman (fl. late 7th century bc) is very similar to his Laconian vernacular (Laconia is the area around Sparta). From the time of Simonides of Ceos and Pindar (c. 500 bc) onward, many Doric elements are replaced by Ionic epic elements. This later form of Lyric-Doric is also found in the lyric parts of Attic tragedy. The Syracusan variety of Doric is used in the comedies of Epicharmus, the mimes of Sophron, and later in the scientific prose of Archimedes. The Tarentan variety is found in the works of the Pythagoreans Archytas of Tarentum and Philolaos. The Doric dialect found in Theocritus’ idylls is often considered an artificial mixture of several varieties of Doric found in poetry, but it may well represent the type of Doric spoken in Alexandria and Egypt during the first half of the 3rd century bc by Greeks of Cyrenaean origin.



The Dorian dialect was divided by Ahrens, following the Greek grammarians, into two main groups – (1) the severer Doric, (2) the milder, the one being more closely connected with /Folic, the other with Ionic. To the former belonged the speech of Laconia, Crete, Cyrene, and the Greek colonies in Italy; to the latter the language of Argolis, Messenia Megara, and northern Greece, and the colonies of Asia Minor and Sicily. The basis of this distinction is the use of w and’? in the severer as against on and Et in the milder dialect. But the division can hardly be maintained in practice, and hence it is abandoned by most modern scholars. The northern Doric, for instance, which is ascribed by Ahrens to the second division, has been shown by Merzdorf (Spraehwissenseh. Abhandl. &e. Leipsic, 1874, pp. 23-42) to form a bridge between iEolic and Doric. Again, while we find ov in use at Thera, at Cyrene, a colony of Timers, a) is retained ; hence this cannot point to a deep division. We may notice first the authorities for the particular dialects, and then the characteristics of Doric generally.

The Laconian dialect is known from few and unimportant inscriptions, from the fragments of Altman, which, however, are in a language much modified for poetic purposes, and from the specimens in the Lysistrata of Aristophanes and in other Attic comedies. There are also a large number of Laconian glosses in Ilesychius, and Thucydides (v. 77) gives a treaty in the Spartan dialect. Our knowledge is largely supplemented by the famous tables of Hemclea, a colony of Tarentum, which itself was founded by Sparta. These were found in the bed of the river Cavone in 1732 and 1735, and are now partly in the Museo Borbonico at Naples and partly in the British Museum.

From Crete there are numerous important inscriptions, chiefly treaties between various towns. It is curious that some of the most valuable of these were found in the ruins of the splendid temple of Dionysus in the island of Teos ; this temple enjoyed the rights of an asylum, and the inscriptions are mainly treaties acknowledging these rights on the part of various Cretan cities. They contain some highly interesting archaisms of form

The Argotic dialect appears on a very ancient helmet found at Olympia (C. I. G., 29) and on an inscription very recently dug up at the same place, as well as on several others of less importance.

From Hessenia there is a long and very interesting inscription found at Andania, dealing with the cultus of certain deities ; it is of comparatively late date (probably 93.B. e.) and in a much modified Doric, but it contains some striking forms.

The Corinthian dialect is learnt mainly from inscriptions at its colonies of Corcyra and Syracuse, both of which cities supply some very ancient and valuable records. In the same way the Doric of Megara is preserved most fully on Byzantine inscriptions. For this we have also the Megarian in the Acharnians of Aristophanes.

For the Locrian dialect Ahrens had but few and fragmentary inscriptions and no literary evidence ; recently a bronze tablet containing a treaty between Chaleion and (Eantheia (af the 4th century n.c.) has been dug up at the latter place ; and also a tablet containing the regulations for founding a colony at Naupaetus (ef. Curt., Stud., ii. 441-449, iii. 205-279). These throw much new light on, the dialect, and enable us to set it down with confidence as a link between Doric and /Folic.

The general character of the Doric dialect was that of a slow, deliberate, and emphatic speech ; it is the speech of the warrior and the ruler, not of the orator or merchant. The 7rAcrEiacrilds, which the 1 ancient authorities ascribe to the Dorians, is not distinctive of them, but was shared by the Bamtians and other /Eoliaus ; it is to be regarded rather as a mark of an earlier stage of the language, which was retained like many other similar characteristics by the Dorians much more extensively than by contemporary Ionians. It is quite the exception for any Doric characteristic to be of recent origin. A natural hypothesis finds in the full and broad sounds of the dialect of these ” men of the mountain-forests ” signs of the chest strengthened by mountain air and mountain life, To pass to details : – In accentuation Doric showed no inclination to the barytoue pronunciation of Lesbos ; on the contrary, it has more oxytone forms even than Attic. In many words the Doric accent is of especial interest as bearing valuable testimony to the origin of the inflexions ; we find not only ci-r)4A.ol, avepcOvot, and TurTol.avoi, but also eX4ov, A.Ocrav, raiSEs, irrth’ mar, and ap.a4Aos (ace. plug. ), – these forms all pointing back to a time when the final syllable was long, and thus demanding from philology an account of this length.

In vowels a short a is often retained where Attic has c (iap6s, Tp4co, Tpcboo) or o VeocaTL-= in Laconian became ov, but probably only as an indication that the earlier pronunciation of the vowel was retained, when in ordinary Greek it had sunk into U. Wherever 71 in Ionic has come from an earlier a, Doric retains a, but where it has originated in e, 77 is retained as in Iesbio-/Eolic Bceot. irairefp) ; it is also retained in augments (iipyigav), and as a contraction for ec (gvitcn). On the other hand ao and ace contract into a (‘ATpe(8a, -yEA.av). The contractions of Es, F&J, vary much in different dialects. The severer Doric gives n for el and zv for ov: ;Is for frS, .73Atcv for go-,aev, Maya, 4-yThAvOCcovi-t= 4c1A.718i.301, 13wAci (Lesb(k.00Ycis, KIXTel TbS volzos, rpziaze, 77..4s [ – Tro8-s], A.‘-yes, Tilt-rev, Teai’Y); of all forms of the dialect the Cretan especially favoured this.

Of the consonants, the digamma was retained longer by the Doric than by any other dialect, but we find it gradually disappearing. It is used in the old Laconian, Argolic, Corinthian, and Corcymian inscriptions, but not in the Cretan, with the exception of the proper name fzizoi ; on the Heraclean tables it is very common, but there are some strange exceptions, as obcid,, and 454.7c4 ; some have held that it is there wrongly inserted in fq, but this is really a valuable confirmation of the labial spirant to which. other languages also bear witness. The digamma is often changed to S (as in Elcan), but never before p, as in /Folic; whether it ever actually passed into 7, or whether the numerous forms which give this in the place of an earlier digamma are all due to the mistakes of copyists, is a question still under discussion (Curtius’s it into 0•, especially in T1 : ; so TIITTOPTITV717-01.701, TIOEPTI=TEBEI01; ef. rAc’erlos, irAcniczos, Mccs, IEX1P061,7101.

Three changes characteristic of I.aconian came in at a comparatively late date ; for they do not appear in the Heraclean tables, and consequently they must be later than the foundation of Tarenturn. (1) 0 becomes 0′; this is very common in the Spartan of the Lysistrata ; e.g., 04xEL, 0-17’np (= C47E10, olds (-8€6s); ef. T1, trio) a15,zzacos (Thule. v. 77), ceios it26p (Ar., Eth. vii. 1). (2) Final s becomes p ; this is still later, and does not appear in Aristophanes, but is very common in the more recent inscriptions. (3) Medial a between vowels becomes ; this is found in Aristophanes (Meta, iraa, &c.) and in later inscriptions (rlootaavz), but not in Aleutian.

The traditional change of y into 3′ is denied by Ahrens and Curtius, who altogether reject, with very good reason, the asserted identity of sa and y5). The appearance off in the future and compound aorist of verbs in -(w (e.g., oKtp.4ovrt, ei.din0v, Sze. in the Tabb. IIcracl., ,uvo•itat in Aristoph., Lysist.) has been rightly explained by Curtius (Print., ii. 248) as a hardening of the original spirant p (j) before the a, the only possible alternative to its complete loss, which we find in the ordinary Greek Botzlydazo. The change of ( into o-3, ascribed by the grammarians to Doric, is more (Scop.ds=ctoixos), when medial as (pvTinto-ThuvOicm, Ir04-(ISSetrpocr4e1).

A double a is retained where this is the more ancient form, changed in ordinary Greek into T ; thus the Heraclean tables give 5Tcros, kLicrcros, go-erorrai, he. The a-T often found in Dorian inscriptions (and sometimes in the earlier Attic also), where there is no historical explanation of its presence, seems to be an attempt to represent the sound of the earlier sibilant san, which was retained by the side of sigma. For the earlier guttural 7coppa, the distinctive sign p is found. in old inscriptions, almost, but not quite exclusively before a, e.g., popived0Ev, fipPos.

The characteristic Dorian inflexions are almost entirely such as are due to these phonetic laws, or to the tendency to metaphrastie or heteroclite formations, already noticed.


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